Call Them Apple Brownies or Apple Blondies or Neither; They're Awesome

October 17, 2017

One of the best things about fall is how the humblest of foods—apples, squash, soup—are elevated to seasonal celebrity status. Apples just might be my favorite of the bunch. For roughly nine months out of the year, they are largely relegated to being a portable, rather uninspired mid-afternoon snack. It’s usually only when the fall pilgrimages to countryside orchards begin that the lowly apple is finally showcased in our dishes. Pies, crisps, butters, and sauces top the list, but it’s a retro recipe for Apple Brownies that inspired me to make good use of the Ginger Golds that I had picked up at a roadside farm stand near my New Jersey home.

My mother, while a very good cook, didn’t bake regularly when I was a kid. Rather, she had a couple seasonal specialties—butter cookies around the holidays, apple brownies in the fall—both of which were hotly anticipated each year. Apple brownies, as I remember them, don’t resemble traditional brownies in much other than in shape and name. They don’t contain any chocolate, and can be best described as an autumnal spiced cake/blondie hybrid with a very generous amount of diced apple throughout. I remember absolutely devouring them as a child, savoring the chunks of tart fruit in the moist, cinnamon-y cake with a slightly crisp top. It was a very good day at school if there were enough leftover to make it into my lunchbox.

This retro treat is vegan-ized and coconutty. Photo by Julia Gartland

The recipe I grew up with contained a lot of butter (2 sticks, to be exact), white flour, and white sugar. Of course they were delicious, but it was the pre-kale salad 80’s back then. When I made this recipe a few weeks back, I knew I wanted to veganize it, ditching butter and sugar for coconut oil and coconut sugar. I played around with the spices a bit, adding nutmeg and increasing the amount of cinnamon. The original recipe called for Granny Smith apples, long praised as a superior baking variety. I used Ginger Golds, but any apple with a firm, crisp flesh (that will hold up to cooking) will fit the bill, such as Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Braeburn.

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The result was something still unbelievably tender with a good crumb—as difficult to resist as ever. It hit all the right notes, nostalgic and otherwise.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Amy G
    Amy G
  • Susy
  • ALC
  • Kt4
  • Gina Adams Anderson
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Vegan Chef & Wellness Professional


Amy G. December 5, 2017
Do you think I could make this into cupcakes? My daughter wants apple muffins for her 4th birthday party, and I have been admiring this recipe for a few weeks, so thought I'd try to adapt. Thoughts?
Susy October 22, 2017
Another call for the original recipe please!
ALC October 22, 2017
Could you substitute almond flour?
Kt4 October 22, 2017
Yes, please post the original recipe or add the 'normal'/usual/cheaper ingredients to the ingredient list as alternatives. I would LOVE to take this recipe but cannot afford such specialized ingredients, nor do I need to. Thank you for sharing the recipe & your story!
Sandra M. October 22, 2017
Adding to the request for the original with butter and regular sugars please!
Gina A. October 22, 2017
I would love the original recipe too.
Gina A. October 22, 2017
I would love to see the original recipe too!
Suzy S. October 18, 2017
I really wish you'd post the original recipe. That's the one I want to make!
Paula October 17, 2017
I love the concept. Any tips on how to make these for those of us who can't use coconut products? Straight swap for the regular items?
Lauren K. October 18, 2017
Hey Paula! You can swap coconut sugar for either sucanat or plain old white sugar. As for the coconut oil, if I were avoiding coconut, I'd swap it 1:1 ratio for vegan butter - I like the organic Earth Balance (there's no coconut in it). Happy Baking!
FrugalCat October 17, 2017
This came out great with regular yogurt instead of the soy. (I used Fage whole milk) and ground ginger in place of the nutmeg. I baked in a muffin tin. Coconut oil is great for you, just don't drink quarts of it and you will be fine.
Lauren K. October 18, 2017
Ground ginger would definitely be wonderful in this recipe! So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
Marty L. October 17, 2017
I thought coconut oil was not good for you